In contrast to New York City, where many functions of government are decided by the City Council, in Nassau County there are multiple layers, such as school boards, fire districts, the town councils, and the county legislature. Their roles and members are not as well known to voters as their state and federal representatives, and one young candidate hopes to raise awareness of local government.

“Nassau County has a budget of $3.5 billion. Important things like the police, parks, and public works, are determined on the county level,” said Lynbrook resident Jacob Scheiner, 28, who is running for County Legislator in the district that includes West Hempstead and Oceanside. “It does not sound appealing, but that is the level of government where there is the most tangible difference.”

The insurance executive is a native of Long Island, raised in Hicksville, where he attended the local public schools and Solomon Schechter for high school. His father also grew up on Long Island, and his mother emigrated from Moscow. She taught him the Russian language and inspired him to learn the history of her former home, which he later visited.

Scheiner’s interest in politics began in college, when he volunteered and then worked for Rep. Tom Suozzi, a centrist Democrat whose North Shore district stretched from Bayside and Dix Hills. “He’s been an incredible mentor in shaping policy ideas, a major role in my life,” he said. “He taught me how local government works.

A former mayor of Glen Cove, who later served as Nassau County Executive, Suozzi served three terms in Congress. In 2022, he unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Kathy Hochul in her reelection, losing his seat in Washington.

“He did a great job in my congressional office. In 2018, he was my campaign manager,” Suozzi said at a fundraiser last week for Scheiner. “Nassau County is a great place to live, but we have a lot of challenges.”

After working for Suozzi, he served as a regional director for AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby organization. Between his time in college and working for AIPAC, Scheiner became interested in religious observance. “Not Orthodox, but trending in that direction. I put on t’filin daily and, when I travel, I try to find a Chabad wherever I stay. I’ve become more observant.”

Concerning his district, Scheiner expressed gratitude that Hochul’s state-mandated upzoning was dropped from the ongoing budget negotiations, but also recognized that growth is necessary in keeping Long Island communities affordable. “We need smart transit-oriented rental units, and places for my parents who do not want the day to day upkeep of a house. It has to have local input from and support from the bottom up, with all the stakeholders.”

Also concerning the high cost of living in Nassau County, Scheiner spoke about red light cameras. In the city, a violation costs $50, but on Nassau County’s roads, it is triple the cost when administrative fees are included. “A ticket issued in the city, I can live with that; but in Nassau County it is no longer about public safety. It is a money grab.”

Having secured the necessary number of signatures to appear on the ballot, Scheiner is running against Republican incumbent William Gaylor III in the upcoming general election. Prior to this year’s redistricting, Gaylor represented Lynbrook, Malverne, and Hewlett since 2016. With West Hempstead being added to this district, Scheiner said that his victory runs through this community.

“We need more young people with refreshing ideas in local government, where it is so desperately needed. We need to make the case for Long Island as a great place to live.”

 By Sergey Kadinsky